Before I was born, my dad was disowned by his mother as an adult. Because of this, I grew up only knowing my mom's side of the family. While all of my other friends and peers discussed which set of grandparents they were going to see on Thanksgiving or how many Christmases they had to attend, I only ever had one of each.
When I was in high school, I remember doing a family tree in Spanish class. I remember I could write down every single person on my mom's side without hesitation, but when I got to my dad's side, I just put a question mark because I had no idea who was in his side of the family. I remember being curious all day that day and coming home from school finally asking questions about my unknown family members. My parents explained what happened to our family: years before I was born, my dad wouldn't do something for my grandmother, so she essentially disowned him and even though I knew in my heart that it wasn't my fault (I mean I didn't even exist yet, how could it be my fault?), I subconsciously blamed myself for years for my broken family. I found myself going above and beyond trying to get their attention, looking high and low for years wanting them to get to know me. I realized much later on through therapy that it was never my fault, but it was hard not to blame myself because I felt so abandoned.
It was all unsuccessful.
I never got to know the ones who disowned me before I was born. I found their homes and tried ringing doorbells with no answer for several years. I sent letters, emails, and Facebook messages from high school through college, until my sophomore year of college. I found out during the spring semester of my sophomore year of college that my grandmother on my dad's side had died, leaving this blank hole in me that I was afraid would never be filled.
I was wrong, it made me stronger and opened up relationships between me and new family members from my dad's side that I had only dreamed of meeting one day. Most of all, it made realize how grateful I am for the family members I do know and have always been in my life.
When I started searching for my dad's family, I put so much value on those relatives that I didn't know instead of valuing the ones who have been by me since birth, like the grandparents I have who raised not just my mom but me too, not the grandmother who didn't want to even open a door for me. I learned through my journey how incredibly thankful I am for such loving family members who have stuck with me through thick and thin rather than just giving up on me when times get tough. Most of all, I am thankful for the support my family has given me throughout this journey.